Jill Connolly

My passion for weddings and special events started quite young – I spent much of my teens and early 20s working with my family cake shop. They produced such beautiful wedding cakes and the highlight of my day was watching customers, especially brides and grooms, come in to view their cakes ready for their big day.

Part of my role was to help deliver wedding cakes to venues, this is how I first discovered, and fell in love with, Wynyard Hall. I’ll never forget walking into this grand building, watching all the staff diligently working away behind the scenes to make everything picture-perfect before the celebrations began. I couldn’t think of anything more rewarding than being part of that world.

Jump forward a few years, I’m completing my degree in Events Management and soon after I was fortunate enough to break into hospitality in a small venue in Sunderland, and then a larger corporate venue in Durham. Although these venues allowed me to be a part of many beautiful and special occasions, I still longed for the prestige venue like Wynyard Hall, one of the first venues I had fallen in love with many years earlier.

The problem with putting something on a pedestal is that you often think it’s unobtainable, but, after a little encouragement from my partner, family and friends, I took the leap and applied to Wynyard Hall and the rest is history! Every morning when I drive up to the Hall, I still have thoughts of disbelief that the same girl who delivered wedding cakes years ago, marvelling at the beautiful chandelier, grand piano and gorgeous grounds, is now part of this very special team.   

My key skills are:  

Plan, plan, plan! You have to be extremely organised, passionate, and have a keen attention to detail. One of the most important skills, which isn’t often taught in this industry, is to be an unofficial therapist, councillor and shoulder to cry on when needed. Weddings can be very emotional and stressful, and I pride myself on doing my upmost to put everyone’s mind at ease. Every wedding and special occasion is unique, and therefore every client relationship deserves as much time, attention and passion as possible so we can work together to make the big day perfect.

Day to day I: 

My day often starts with turning up to work early and walking my assistant (Vivienne, a rather naughty French Bulldog) around the grounds to make sure the resident geese are behaving.

I’ll then walk around the Hall, checking in with the team as I go, to ensure everything is perfect before the couple arrives for their big day.

On days where we have no weddings taking place, you’ll find me with my first of many cups of coffee diligently working my way through my email inbox while regularly trying to convince Vivienne that the local squirrels are nothing to be worried about.  

I also spend much of my time putting together planning documents for weddings and special occasions. These are the blueprints and scripts of how the day will run start to finish. Much like a well-choreographed play; everything is set up accurately, contingencies are put in place, and everyone knows where to be at what time so that our guests have a perfect day.

I love my job because: 

Being at the bottom of the aisle and sending a bride down to her ceremony whilst the music plays is completely magical. Even after 9 years in this industry, seeing two people exchange their vows never gets old.

We are so fortunate at Wynyard Hall to have such beautiful grounds, I love taking my lunch break walking down by the lake and around the gardens.

The history of the Hall is also a big factor in why I love working here. Recently, a couple who were married 40 years ago in our chapel returned to Wynyard to recreate their wedding photos at the top of the alter. You can find this photo on our social media, it’s definitely worth a look. 

In my spare time I: 

With a job as high tempo as this, I often like to wind down by catching up on boxsets, taking Vivienne to puppy classes, and planning my next big holiday (which most often turns out to be New York!).

My future goals are: 

Continuously researching upcoming trends in the industry so that we can make our exclusive weddings at Wynyard Hall truly magical for all the couples who choose to have their special day with us.